A shin splint is the pain felt in the inner aspect of your shin bone. The shin bone is located between your knee and the ankle; therefore, the pain concentrates in this area. This condition is also known as the medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS).
Shin splints frequently affect people who engage themselves in strenuous activities and also in sports like tennis, basketball, racquetball, and soccer. This condition can become so severe in some individuals that it comes to a point where they will have to stop such sports and activities due to the intense, unbearable pain.
What causes shin splints?
Heavy, strenuous physical activities and sports apply a great force to your shin bones as well as the muscles and tissues surrounding this bone. This excessive force causes your muscles to swell; thus, increasing the pressure against the bone. This eventually leads to pain and inflammation of the shin bone.
Shin splints can also occur as a result of stress reactions to the bone. Continuous thrusting exercises result in small cracks to occur in your bone. With adequate rest, these cracks heal on its own, but if you do not rest properly, these small cracks will ultimately lead to a complete fracture or a stress fracture.
Other causes of shin splints include abnormalities in your anatomical structure such as a flat foot, weakness of your thigh muscles, improper training techniques, or lack of flexibility.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Some of the symptoms that people with shin splints experience are:
- A dull pain in the inner aspect of the shin bone
- Muscular pain
- Swelling of the lower legs
- Weakness and numbness of the feet
You should visit your doctor if these symptoms do not resolve or if you have any of these symptoms:
- Intense pain over the shin bone after a fall or an accident
- Pain persists even when resting
- Worsening swelling of your lower legs
- Increased temperature over the shin bone
How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor can make a diagnosis after taking a careful history and a physical examination. You will be asked about your physical activities and sports that you are involved in. If your doctor suspects that the pain is due to a fracture or any other problem, then they will order further tests such as X-rays of the leg to come to an accurate diagnosis.
How are shin splints treated?
The best and the most recommended treatment for a shin splint is adequate rest. With an adequate amount of rest, shin splints will recover on its own. You will need to rest for about two weeks. During this time, you can do less strenuous sports or exercises that are less likely to cause further harm to your legs.
While you rest, keep your legs elevated, wear elastic compression stockings, and use ice packs to reduce the swelling of your legs. If your pain is too severe, take some over-the-counter pain medication to reduce the pain.
You should visit your doctor before getting back to your exercises or sports to exclude the possibilities of it being a fracture or compartment syndrome.